Bench contributors are a welcome surprise for the Jayhawks

KU has gotten meaningful contributions from several players that came into this season with low expectations.

Usually the second and third guys off the bench for Kansas are five-star recruits or veteran players, but this year is different. With Billy Preston being absent from the court until further notice, KU has had to resort to an unfamiliar duo for some help off the bench.

Marcus Garrett has been the best player from the group. Garrett wasn’t a total unknown coming into the season, but he wasn’t expected to play big minutes, let alone make the impact he has made so far. The four-star recruit was looked at as more of a long-term project.

So far Garrett has bucked those low expectations, and even started the first game of the year. He’s playing 22 minutes per game and is a calming presence when he steps on the floor, only committing eight turnovers all season. The freshman was recruited as a point guard, but has been asked to guard multiple positions. He has also excelled at rebounding, averaging six boards a game.

The most surprising member of KU’s bench has to be Clay Young, a walk on from Lansing, Kansas. Young has played in seven of KU’s first eight games. Young’s best performance came in the Jayhawk’s game against Syracuse when he played 12 minutes. The stat sheet for that game won’t blow you away, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Young came in against the vaunted Syracuse zone defense and held his own. With both Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot on the bench with foul trouble, the 6-foot-5 senior essentially became KU’s center and played well against one of the tallest teams in the country. He didn’t make any big mistakes and did his job.

That performance proved that when Young checks into games in the future, it’s not something fans should worry about – a statement that would not have been said at the start of the season. Young was also asked to come in early and hold down the fort against Washington on Wednesday night. Again, he didn’t do anything spectacular in the game, but Young played steadily and did everything he was being asked to do against Washington’s big men.

KU’s unlikely bench is also growing. James Sosinski, a 6-foot-7 tight end from the football team has walked on to the basketball team. Sosinski transferred to Kansas from South Mountain Community College, where he played both football and basketball. He averaged 19 points and 13 rebounds before going to football full-time.

Sosinski has been with the basketball team for about a week and is expected to provide another body for the thin Jayhawks in practice. However, if Sosinski proves something to Bill Self, he may get some meaningful playing time before the season ends.

Reinforcements will be coming soon in the form of Sam Cunliffe and hopefully Preston and Silvio De Sousa. In the meantime, KU fans should take Garrett and Young’s playing time and success as nothing but positive. Their solid and consistent play is exactly what the Jayhawks need right now.

Jackson Hodges

I’ve been a KU fan as long as I can remember, which I chalk up to my love of basketball and the influence of my brothers. I am a graduate of Oklahoma State, but I routinely wore my blue in Gallagher-Iba (yes, I was that guy). I grew up idolizing Wayne Simien and Christian Moody, and I think the post-entry pass is a lost art. I hope you enjoy my work.